I read a post a few nights ago on no spend days, where the point is to dedicate at least one day per week to spending no money at all. There were a few thoughts running through my head as I read the post:
- This concept is in no way new to me, as I go days without spending any money. I don’t drink coffee, I bring tea that I made from home with me to work every morning, I drink water for the rest of the day, I pack leftovers for lunch, and we cook dinner at home. We try to concentrate our errand-running to one time slot (either a weekday evening or on the weekend).
- Hearing about record levels of consumer debt on a regular basis, I’m not too surprised that there are people who spend money, even a little bit (say for a morning coffee or for lunch), every single day. Those little amounts on a regular basis really add up quickly. If I went to Bridgehead, our local coffee shop, every morning for a $3 drink, that would cost me $15 for the work week, $45-60 for a month, and $540-720 for the year! That’s insane!
- Boxing day just passed and Black Friday wasn’t that long ago either. That’s a lot of people buying a lot of stuff. By contrast, I think movements such as Buy Nothing Day and Shopping Embargos (post-Christmas shopping moratorium) are growing, encouraging consumers to take a step back and really examine their buying habits, and folks are incorporating conscientious decision-making into their lives (think minimalism; I heard these guys speak at the World Domination Summit 2012.
- I have always been quite prudent with my spending and I lean towards being a saver moreso than a spender. However, we recently moved from relying on credit cards to a cash-based lifestyle. Within the past two months of using mostly only cash in our household, I have really learned how engrained ‘instant gratification’ is in my life and, no matter how disciplined you are with money, just how much easier it is to spend with credit cards. Seeing the finite amount of cash in my wallet (I have a set monthly allowance), I really think about how I want to spend that money each month. I’ve foregone a lot of things that I thought I wanted but decided that I don’t really need…and after thinking about it for a few more hours, it turned out I didn’t really want it after all. It was more of an impulse. Instant gratification. But for what result?
That brings me to: You already have everything you need. I read this phrase on Jenny Blake’s Life After College blog and although she wrote it as inspiration for making things happen in your life, it really resonated with me about life in general. I have my health, my family is relatively healthy, I have a cozy home, I have some really amazing friends, I have a job, I do not have unaffordable debt, I have enough money to grant me freedom (e.g., for travel), and overall, I live a pretty good life. I already have everything I need. Acquiring additional material goods will not enrich my life any more than it already is and after a certain point, I think the constant draw to acquire things starts to detract from life.
This is how I see it in my own mind:
I forgot to include axes with the graph; I think the y axis would be something like feeling of happiness, content, or value while the x axis would be volume or amount of stuff. That isn’t to say that I won’t buy things anymore. As with dieting, cutting yourself off from doing something will only make you want to do it more. As with eating, being mindful and making conscientious choices makes all the difference. Instead, I will think about the value that something will bring to my life compared to its costs (not limited to monetary) before buying it. I will also strive to save up for big purchases just as kids are encourage to do, by putting aside some of my monthly allowance until I can afford to buy it.
I already have everything I need.